The human body plays host to numerous “friendly” bacteria, housing them comfortably in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The relationship between the body and these 400 or so species of friendly bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, is symbiotic at its best. The term symbiotic refers to a mutually beneficial relationship between two or more different organisms of different species. In this case, the bacteria benefit by having an environment in which they thrive, while the human body gets an even better deal. A healthy intestinal microflora can extend to health benefits far beyond digestive health, including enhanced immune function, improved heart health and increased mineral absorption. Plus, it may help protect against chronic digestive illnesses and certain cancers.

There are two ways to support these beneficial bacteria in the GI tract. Consuming probiotic bacteria, such as those found in certain yogurts and other cultured dairy products, balances the intestinal microflora by replenishing the good bacteria and reducing the harmful bacteria. Consuming prebiotics, substances that actually feed the good bacteria already in the gut, stimulates their growth and activity. Prebiotics such as inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) occur naturally in many plant-based foods, including chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke and onions. Chicory root is a particularly rich source of inulin and FOS. The ORAFTI Group has optimized a gentle, hot water extraction and purification process using chicory root for making these prebiotics available in forms that can be used in a broad range of food and drink applications. Their Beneo™ Synergy1 prebiotic, a unique composition of FOS and inulin, has been specifically formulated for making bone health claims, as it has been shown to increase calcium absorption and increase bone mineral density.

Calcium absorption is critical during childhood and adolescence for reaching peak bone mass, thus minimizing the risk of osteoporosis later in life. In a study carried out at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor University, 100 adolescents were given either 8g of Beneo Synergy1 or a placebo every day for a year. After one year, those who consumed Beneo Synergy1 showed a 45% increase in bone mineral density over the control group, as well as a 25% increase in calcium absorption and a 30mg/day increase in bone calcium accretion1. Calcium absorption also is crucial in post-menopausal women, since low hormone levels cause the bones to leach calcium—resulting in lower bone density and an increased risk for osteoporosis. Another study showed 10g per day of Beneo Synergy1 increased the change in calcium absorption by 20% in post-menopausal women, compared to the control group2.

These results open the door for new and innovative functional foods. “Not only do prebiotics deliver well-documented health benefits, but they also have exceptional technical functionality, including partial sugar replacement characteristics, making them ideal ingredients for beverages, dairy products, cereals and bars,” says Joseph O’ Neill, executive vice president of sales and marketing for ORAFTI in North America.  ORAFTI’s extensive scientific research on Beneo Synergy1 also shows promise for maintaining good heart health3 and reducing colon cancer risk4.


1 Abrams, SA, et al. 2005. Am J Clin Nutr. 82:471-6.

2 Holloway, L, et al. 2007. Br J Nutr. 97:365-72.

3 Rault-Nania, MH et al. 2006. Br J Nutr. 96:840-4.

4 Rafter, J, et al. 2007. Am J Clin Nutr. 85:488-496.